May I Check Your References? How to Be Prepared and Know Your References Are Prepared Too!

Resumes, cover letters, company research and interview prep – but what about your professional references. Have you checked your references lately? Professional references are an important part of the job search process and one that is often overlooked. Having strong references can make or break you. Take some time to learn more about professional references and the important part they play in your job search.

What is a Professional Reference?

A professional reference is someone who knows you on a work basis and can talk about your job-related skills and qualifications. It differs from a personal reference in which someone speaks about your character. A professional reference is someone who has observed you in a work setting, such as a former employer, supervisor, colleague or client, and can recommend you for employment. If your work experience is limited, you can use a former professor, advisor, or coach as long as they can attest to your work-related skills and abilities.

The reference check is a crucial element in the hiring process. A recent study by OfficeTeam found that hiring managers eliminated about 21% of candidates from consideration after contacting their professional references. Spend the time needed to create a strong list of professional references using the following five tips.


  1. Choose carefully

    Choose references that can speak directly about your professional skills, experience, and accomplishments in a positive manner. Stay away from selecting people with impressive job titles but who don’t know your abilities. Unsure who to ask, make a potential list and review the questions listed in References: The Keys to Choosing and Using the Best Job References in your Job Search.

  2. Get permission

    Call or email your potential references ahead of time to ask if they will provide a professional recommendation for you. If unsure about their willingness to act as a reference, do not use them. Forward your resume so that your references have your most current work history.

  3. Provide accurate information

    Verify the all of the contact information. The list includes name, title, company, address, daytime phone number and email address. Prepare a list of your references ahead of time. This list is separate from your resume and ready when requested by an employer.

  4. Think ahead

    Employers might also contact people who are not listed on your reference list, especially recent employers. Be prepared for questions and try to remain on good terms with your past supervisors and co-workers.

  5. Thank your references

    Thank those who have agreed to act as a professional reference and keep them updated on your job search. If appropriate, offer to help them out or reciprocate their good deed.


For more information, read What Is a Professional Reference, What Employers Want from Job References, and References: The Keys to Choosing and Using the Best Job References in your Job Search.